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Drinan as Moral Leader

by house speaker nancy pelosi

House Speaker Nancy PelosiWhen St. Francis of Assisi was asked what a person had to do to lead a good life, he replied, “Preach the Gospel. Sometimes use words.” This is the legacy of Father Robert Drinan. As a teacher, congressman, advocate, and minister, Father Drinan tirelessly preached through example what it means to live with courage, determination, and moral conviction.


He lived and legislated according to the ideals of faith and morality, coupling his devotion to the church with his conviction for progressive legislation. In keeping with his deep-seeded faith, he became one of our greatest champions of human rights and dignity.


Father Drinan’s call to serve others exemplified his life in politics, education, and the ministry. He led with a bold moral vision, which he helped to foster in thousands of students during his time at Boston College and Georgetown law schools, and instilled within them the courage to cement the moral pillars of our democratic society.


Father Drinan once offered advice to a group of graduating Georgetown Law students. He said, “As I look out at all of you with your new and expensive law school educations, I would urge you to go forth into society not as mere legal tradesmen, but as moral architects. Design, create, and build a better and more equitable society; use your skills to help those who are otherwise not being served.”


Father Drinan presided over mass at Trinity College before I was sworn is as Speaker, not long before his passing. He spoke about the courage to lead a moral life of conviction and service for the betterment of our nation and ourselves. “Let us re-examine our convictions, our commitments, and our courage,” he said.“Our convictions and our commitments are clear and certain to us. But do we have the courage to carry them out? God has great hopes for what this nation will do in the near future. We are here to ask for the courage to carry out God’s hopes and aspirations.”


He challenged us with moral conviction and a pragmatic call to action, saying, “Imagine what the world would think of the United States if the health and welfare of children everywhere became the top objective of America’s foreign policy. It could happen, and it could happen soon, if enough people cared.”


With the passing of Father Drinan, we must each continue to find the courage to lead our families, our communities, and our nation with the moral conviction he preached. Honesty, integrity, and the courage to stand up for what is right cannot be taught solely in a classroom, as Father Drinan knew, but must be exemplified in the everyday actions of everyday individuals.


The legacy of Father Drinan will remain steadfast, within the halls of Congress and the hearts and minds of the thousands of students he taught. I hope it is a comfort to all those who loved him, including the entire Boston College community, that so many continue to grieve the loss of Father Drinan. We take solace in the outpouring of support for the life he led and the moral idealism he embodied.